News: Observations & information on native plants, plant sales, conferences and speaking engagements.

Photo Gallery: New and better images of plants in the book!

 Arisaema dracontium
green dragon fruit
(page 104)

 Podophyllum peltatum
may apple fruit
(page 160)

 Trillium sulcatum
Barksdale's trillium fruit
(page 183)

 Ceanothus americanus
New Jersey tea fruit
(page 239)

 Viburnum rufidulum
rusty blackhaw viburnum fruit
(page 319)

Native Plant Sales, Conferences, and Happenings - 2017:

Reflection Riding Native Plant Sale, April 21-22, 2017, Chattanooga, TN. More information.

GroWild Native Plant Festival, April 28-29, 2017, Fairview, TN. Visit their Web site for details. All plants discounted 10 percent.
More information.

Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade Wildflower Festival at Cedars of Lebanon State Park in Lebanon, TN, May 5 and 6, 2017. Friday evening program at 7:00p.m. features talks on Conserving Tennessee Bats and introduction of the rare Running Glade Clover at the park. Saturday activities include an early morning bird walk, guided hikes of the cedar glades, outdoor games for the family, informative talks/walks on native-plant gardening, photography, bee-keeping, and geology, and an evening owl prowl. Native plants will be on sale to benefit Friends of Cedars of Lebanon. All activities are free and open to the public. Download a schedule of events here.

Cullowhee Native Plant Conference, July 19-22, 2017, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC. Registration opens in April. More information.

New Tennessee Butterfly Book
Butterflies of Tennessee: Field and Garden by author Rita Venable is an essential guide for any nature enthusiast. Rita is well known in the state for her encyclopedic knowledge of these lovely creatures, and her book has been a labor of love for several years. Beautifully done, it features superb photography showing all 124 species in the state, plus images of eggs, caterpillars, and chrysalises for numerous species. The usual description, range, and flight information is provided, and Rita includes each species preferred nectar and larval plants along with gardening tips tailored to Tennessee. Front sections offer concise tutorials on basic butterfly biology, behavior, and conservation concerns and introduce readers to specifics of Tennessee's landscape and climate. Learn more about this quality book at Rita's Web site.

Tennessee Naturalist Program
One of the beauties and joys of gardening, particularly with native plants, is the opportunity to closely connect with nature in your backyard. Want to know more about the birds, skinks, caterpillars, and other wildlife enjoying the garden? The Tennessee Naturalist Program is a 10-class course of natural history study for adults, focused on the geology and biological treasures of our great state. TNP now has seven chapters -- Ijams Nature Center (Knoxville), Audubon Acres (Chattanooga), Friends of South Cumberland State Park (Monteagle), Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary (Nashville), Memphis Botanic Garden, Cumberland Mountain State Park (Crossville), Bays Mountain Park (Kingsport), and Cedars of Lebanon State Park (Lebanon). To find out more about the program and chapters, visit TNP's Web site.

Connecting to Wildlife through Native Plants:
A wonderful book was published in 2007 that should be must reading for all gardeners. In Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens (Timber Press), author Douglas W. Tallamy makes a compelling biological argument for using native plants as the foundation of our maintained landscapes. This book has just been honored with the 2008 Silver Award of Achievement from the Garden Writers Association. Tallamy is a professor and chairs the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware. His thesis centers on insects...not exactly an enticing prospect for most gardeners, yet, good teacher that he must be, he methodically presents his case clearly and convincingly. The first key point is predicated upon transfer of the sun's energy. Plants utilize the sun through photosynthesis to produce the sugars they need to live and become the first crucial link in the food chain. Nearly all other creatures get their energy directly or indirectly from these plants. The largest group of consumers responsible for transferring plant energy into animal energy is insects. Next, Tallamy explains the evolutionary path that establishes a dependent link between local plants and insects. Insects have developed the means to recognize and utilize certain local plants at different stages of their lives. The vast majority of insects lose this evolutionary association on non-native or exotic plant species, which they either don't recognize as food or cannot digest the plants' tissue. With few exceptions, exotic plants that evolved elsewhere have differing leaf chemistry, distinct even from closely related native species.

At first, gardeners might see this as a great excuse for using non-native plants. If they aren't chewed up by insects, then we'll have good looking plants that don't need chemical intervention. Tallamy anticipates this reaction and is ready. Insects don't just eat, he says, they get eaten, comprising the diet, often exclusively, of some of our most cherished backyard wildlife. What gardener isn't thrilled to find a bird's nest and watch the mother and father flying back and forth with food for hungry little beaks? Insects are the only food suited to baby birds. The health and quantity of an area's insect population directly affects the number of baby birds it can support. Tallamy has found that diverse landscapes of native plants will attract enough chewing insects and the predators that prey on them to hold plant disfigurement to a threshold low enough not to be noticeable. And in the meantime, we get to enjoy a wonderfully alive garden that functions as a healthy ecosystem should. Non-native plants take and keep the sun's energy and do not pass it up the food chain through insects. Therefore, they are non-functioning members of the ecosystem - taking light, water, nutrients, and space, but contributing nothing in return to the betterment of the community. In addition to the sterile void they create in native systems, non-native plants are also responsible for some of our worst headaches. Tallamy offers a depressing recitation of invasive plant infestations and the introduction of a jaw-dropping number of diseases and harmful insects (plaguing plants in the garden and the wild) that have snuck into the U.S. on exotic nursery stock. This is not to cast aspersions on all exotic plants. Most do not cause direct harm to the environment and provide interest and beauty in our gardens. The point isn't to forego all exotics but to rely more heavily on native plants as the foundation of a landscape. Enjoying ornamental exotics in smaller doses as accent rather than structural backbone will allow the majority native plants to function ecologically and connect more effectively with nearby natural areas in spite of the intervening human presence.

Tallamy offers information on native plants that are particularly supportive of insects and provides a fascinating look at some of the insects a diverse native garden would attract. Who would think "bugs" could be so interesting? Tallamy makes it easier to like and appreciate these little crawlers and fliers for their intrinsic value and the indispensable role they play in healthy habitats through behavioral descriptions and fun anecdotes. The more gardeners understand the larger ecological framework within which they operate, the harder it is to dismiss other species - even insects - as disposable. From humans to the lowliest fly, we all play a part in this wonderful world. Cheerfully sharing our patch of land with fellow critters does not diminish our gardens; it enriches our lives.

Margie's Speaking Dates:

Tennessee Naturalist Course, Cedar of Lebanon State Park -- Jan. 14, 2017
Naturalist Skills

Tennessee Naturalist Course, Memphis Botanic Garden -- Jan. 23, 2017
Naturalist Skills

Ecological Gardening: Native Plants in the Landscape -- Feb. 2, 2017
Hendersonville Garden Club

Lawrence County Master Gardener Class -- Feb. 20, 2017
Gardening with Native Plants

Nashville Lawn & Garden Show -- Mar. 5, 2017
The Woodland Garden: A Homeowner Guide

Ecological Gardening: Native Plants in the Landscape -- March 7, 2017
Wilson County Master Gardeners

Tennessee Naturalist Course, Cumberland Mountain State Park -- April 4, 2017
Geology and Ecology of Tennessee: Foundation and Context

Tennessee Naturalist Course, Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary -- April 29 & May 4, 2017
Herbaceous Plants of Tennessee: Forbs, Ferns, Fungi and More

Elsie Quarterman Cedar Glade Wildflower Festival, Cedars of Lebanon State Park -- May 5, 2017
Ecological Gardening: Native Plants in the Landscape

University of Tennessee Gardens Native Plant Symposium and Plant Sale, UT Gardens Knoxville — May 20, 2017
Natural Communities and Gardening: Ecology in the Residential Landscape

Perennial Plant Society of Middle Tennessee, Cheekwood Botanic Gardens - Aug. 15, 2017
April in August: Smoky Mountain Spring

Tennessee Naturalist Course, Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary -- Aug.
Naturalist Skills

Ecological Gardening: Native Plants in the Landscape -- Sept. 8, 2017
Garden Lovers Garden Club, Murfreesboro

Tennessee Naturalist Course, Owl's Hill Nature Sanctuary -- Oct.
Geology and Ecology of Tennessee: Foundation and Context

Sierra Club of Middle Tennessee, Radnor Lake State Park & Natural Area - Nov. 9, 2017
An Exploration of the Limestone Cedar Glades in Middle Tennessee

Contact me for more information.
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